The president-elect of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, said on Monday that he would designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization upon taking office.The president spoke in a brief, exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, reiterating a statement he made Sunday in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Israel’s settlements to be “not inconsistent with international law.”“They are attacking Israel,” the president said of Hezbollah, noting that he plans to make the move against the terrorist organization in his first days in office.Hezbollah is already designated as a terrorist organization by a large portion of the international community, including the United States.Matanya Cohen, Israeli ambassador to Guatemala, said that if Giammattei follows through with this promise, he will be the first president in the Central American region to do so.Cohen noted that Iran and Hezbollah are already operating in the region. It has been widely noted that Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro is being supported in part by Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah, and that they are running some of their overt and covert activities there.Some have even surmised that the South American country could become the next Syria – a hub for supporting international terrorism with access to all of Latin America.The president-elect also noted on Monday that he would re-examine the country’s policy on Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria with a goal of aligning Guatemala’s policy with that of the United States.Last month,
Giammattei made the comment in a conversation with Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Kohelet Policy Forum, witnessed by the Post.In a talk before a small crowd, hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation, Giammattei noted that his dream is to make Israel and Guatemala even closer allies than before.Guatemala was the second country in the world to recognize the State of Israel in 1948 – only after the US – and the second country to move its embassy to Jerusalem.Giammattei said that he supports Israel out of faith: “Bless Israel and receive blessing from God,” he told the group, quoting a passage from Genesis.The president-elect said he has no plans to move the Guatemalan embassy from Jerusalem – and that he will use his role as the country’s leader to encourage other countries to move their embassies to the capital, as well.He also said that he would continue to support Israel among international organizations, such as the United Nations where, especially at this time of year, a slew of anti-Israel resolutions are raised and passed. Guatemala has historically voted against such resolutions.Cohen said that when Giammattei was elected, he visited the president-elect in his office. During the meeting, the president made a commitment to the State of Israel.“I met him two days after he was elected,” Cohen recalled. “I was the first ambassador he received. He told me that he was only going to visit three countries outside of the Americas in his first few months: Taiwan, Spain and Israel.“For him, these were the three most important countries,” Cohen continued.Cohen explained that beyond offering diplomatic support to Israel, Giammattei is in Israel to discuss his country’s free trade agreement with the Jewish state and to meet and recruit Israeli technology companies.“He wants to bring Israeli technologies – water, agriculture, education, health and security – from Israel to Guatemala,” he said.Dr. Fidel Reyes Lee, a member of the Guatemalan Congress, told the Post that he “loves and supports Israel,” and that even though it is sometimes hard to fight for pro-Israel legislation, he is committed to doing so out of his faith – like the president.Lee said that while he does not know if his country will be able to have any impact in changing the European Union court’s decision to label products as made in the settlements, he will fight to ensure that his own country never makes such a move.
The Guatemalan delegation is part of a group of 25 MPs from around the world that are in the country for three days to take part in the Israel Allies Foundation’s annual conference. Among attendees are Julio Borges, the recognized Venezuela foreign minister by Israel and the USA and the population minister of Estonia, Riina Solman.The Israel Allies Foundation works with the US Congress and parliaments around the world to mobilize faith-based support for Israel. Most of its participants are Evangelical Christians.Giammattei will be in Israel until Thursday.